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Special Reports

MA 30 The Innovators: Josh Shaw

December 6, 2016 | By Richard S. Ginell

Artistic Director, Pacific Opera Project

Josh Shaw is a protean force of do-it-yourself opera in Los Angeles, acting at one time or another as a director, librettist, singer, set and lighting designer, producer, promoter, photographer—you name it. Although working with a number of opera companies in an equal number of capacities, his primary vehicle is Pacific Opera Project, which he started from scratch in 2011 with Music Director Stephen Karr and has since taken it, as one of his productions might be described, “where no man has gone before.”

Shaw’s concept of opera embraces the word “entertainment,” be it a Star Trek version of The Abduction from the Seraglio, The Merry Widow set in the Gold Rush (retitled Merry Widder), Falstaff as performed at Forest Lawn Memorial Park cemetery, The Marriage of Figaro as seen through the film Scarface, or the company’s most enduring hit, La Bohème aka The Hipsters at the Ebell Club in Highland Park.

Shaw adapts and updates the librettos himself, ticket prices are reasonable, starting at $30, and for some productions, you can sit at a table and enjoy wine and snacks. Sometimes, POP even makes a little local history. In September at LA’s Occidental College, it mounted Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in what was the terribly overdue first professional performance of the opera in the city where Stravinsky wrote it.

Working with limited funds, POP has managed to attract a loyal audience and, lately, some attention from the mainstream press. The Star Trek Abduction sold out the 1,200-seat John Anson Ford Amphitheater in Hollywood in September and has traveled to various venues around the country. It’s regietheater for Americans, and POP claims that it is now second in the city only to the mighty Los Angeles Opera—albeit, they puckishly admit, by a margin of several million dollars.


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